On Thursday, February 25 the Graduate Student Association-UW hosted a Graduate Student Wellness Roundtable to dicuss the ways in which university administration is prioritizing graduate student wellness on our campus. Speakers included:
- Jennifer McCorriston from the Wellness Collaborative Advisory Commitee
- John Hirdes from the Commitee of Student Mental Health
- Cheri Bilitz from Counselling Services
- Jeff Casello from Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs
A video event of the recording is coming soon. In the meantime, here is summary of the Graduate Student Wellness Intiatives that are supported by Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs, which were highlighted at the roundtable.
What is Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA)?
GSPA's core functions include:
- Marketing and Recruitment - working with faculties to articulate the strengths of graduate programs at Waterloo, to attract and recruit students;
- Admissions - receiving and processing applicants’ files and coordinating admissions with the faculties;
- Student funding and awards - coding student financial support – GRSs and Awards – through Quest;
- Student information Systems and Records - operationalizing and updating the University’s student information systems and managing graduate student records
- Communications - communicating with graduate students and maintaining the Graduate Studies Academic Calendar.
GSPA’s unwritten mandate is to lead and support the creation of a campus community that catalyzes exceptional experiences for and among graduate students (and postdoctoral scholars).
- Streamlining logistics with end goal of providing more timely and responsive student services;
- Creating university Policy through a student-focused lens;
- Advancing student-focused initiatives through formal university committees;
- Providing timely support for students at various stages in their careers;
- Developing and programming community-enhancing activities and opportunities for research dissemination;
- Establishing and reinforcing expectations that create a culture of student support throughout graduate studies.
In what ways does GSPA support graduate student wellness?
- Through financial programs specifically designed for graduate students experiencing challenges;
- Through guidelines and practices aimed at supporting students in their relationships with their supervisor(s);
- Through the development and implementation of practices in support of students with extenuating circumstances influencing their academics;
- Through guidelines and practices that promote equity, diversity and inclusion.
- The Contingency Bursary (~$0.8M) for international students, and UW Graduate Student Bursary (~$1.5M) for domestic students who experience unforeseen financial challenges;
- A medical leave award (~0.2M), for students who are experiencing health challenges, to ensure their funding continues while they are on leave;
- Awards to support Parental Leaves and Day Care (~$0.4M) expenses;
- Awards to support student research dissemination and professional development (~$0.2M) at conferences or other professional events;
- Awards (in partnership with GSA and GSEF) to support thesis completion ($0.07M) for students who are within two terms of completing their studies.
GSPA has been active in promoting positive relationships between students and supervisors, and in creating supports for students in transition. These include:
- Organizing a task force on graduate student supervision to identify best practices and make recommendations on necessary improvements;
- Coordinating and delivering graduate supervisory training in partnership with the Centre for Teaching Excellence;
- Rewriting the guide to graduate research and student supervision;
- Codifying the university’s commitment to graduate students, and the continuation of financial support when supervisory relationships end;
- Establishing clear expectations on feedback to students on their academic progression in both coursework and research programs.
GSPA has worked with partners to improve the way in which graduate students who are experiencing unique challenges are supported academically. These include:
- Working with AccessAbility Services to ensure that accommodations related to graduate milestones were expressly considered;
- Developing a petitions process that ensures the privacy of graduate students’ medical information for students seeking exemptions from academic regulations;
- Clarifying motivations for and processes related to student program extensions beyond term limits;
- Creating thesis embargo regulations that protect students’ identities for situations where the student may be at risk;
- Supporting the University’s Registrar’s Office to provide student agency in the articulation of preferred and legal names.